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The above is really the core of this question... It's not always easy to figure out -
- which devices should be connected on USB 2.0 (because there is a speed benefit) and
- which devices can just as well be connected on USB 1.1 (because they don't need much speed).

Why this question:
Some computers don't have enough USB 2.0 ports to support all our devices:

  • Some computers have USB 2.0 in the rear but only USB 1.1 in the front, for whatever reasons.
  • Some computers that were originally USB 1.1 have been upgraded to USB 2.0.
  • Most of us have USB devices that support or require USB 2.0, and some that are fine with the lower speed of USB 1.x.

So some of the peripherals would have to make do on lower speeds -- but which ones?? Obviously a digital camera should be on USB 2.0 to get the best transfer rates. A wireless keyboard can just as well be on USB 1.1 because nobody can type at 480 Mbps. How about a printer? How about an HD webcam? That's what this question is about! (Note: USB 3.0 is emerging, and of course the same question applies there.)

I'll make this a community wiki because there won't be one single definite answer.

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This is like asking: Who really needs broadband internet, when dialup works the same - you just have to wait longer. – sml Aug 15 '10 at 6:33
??? It isn't showing as community wiki from my side. – AndrejaKo Aug 15 '10 at 6:42
@Andreja, now it is! – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 15 '10 at 7:31
@Scottl, I see your point but you have to admit that some devices really don't NEED fast USB while others really benefit from it. There's a grey area about which devices fall into what category -- that's what I'm trying to define here. Which devices work just as fast on slower USB? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 15 '10 at 7:33
@scottl Interesting argument. But let's take a look at the other side: If you are only using gopher sites, links and text mode Internet, why would you need broadband? Dail-up is good enough and 56k is extremely fast there. I think that this question is justified because it would be good to have a list of devices which don't need high speed transfer. – AndrejaKo Aug 15 '10 at 8:37
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, there is no easy way to figure this one out. I think that intuition should work best. Basically, user should estimate how much data transfer device needs.

So mice, keyboards and similar devices would work fine on USB 1.1 while HD webcams and others would need 2.0 for acceptable speed.

I'd say that printers too need USB 2.0. I don't know if they are capable of using it at full speed, but for printing images and complicated documents, it would be helpful to transfer data from computer to printer as fast as possible. I'm not 100% certain for bluetooth, but I think that 1.x and 2.x devices should be slow enough to work fine from USB 1.1 port. Bluetooth 3.x devices should use at least 2.0 port.

Also usb-to-serial converters wouldn't need USB 2.0 speeds and device which have them integrated (such as Hewlett-Packard calculators for example) wouldn't benefit much from USB 2.0 speeds.

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Keyboard, mouse, graphics tablet: 1.1

Anything that involved data transfer: 2.0/3.0

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USB 1.1 is fine when used to only charge the device. (Battery charger, LED lamp)

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A bit extra for the future: USB 3.0 current unit is 150mA (up from 100mA), so it may be worth to plug chargeable devices into USB 3.0 ports once they become mainstream. – AndrejaKo Aug 15 '10 at 11:11

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